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Draft Preview: New York Rangers – First-round fandango

The New York Rangers are showing off smooth moves with so many high draft picks.

The Rangers are in the midst of a calculated rebuild that is based on stockpiling quality draft picks, and so far, the strategy is looking good. New York has had five first-round selections in the past two drafts and will have at least two – and up to four, depending on conditions – this summer. The first pick is No. 2 overall after the balls fell their way in the draft lottery. The Rangers have gone hard at centers and defensemen with their recent first-round picks, so they’re getting strong at the most important positions.

IMMEDIATE NEEDS: Since the plan is in place, the Rangers aren’t looking so much at instant upgrades as they are experience and growth from the next generation. To that end, giving meaningful minutes to youngsters such as Filip Chytil, Lias Andersson and Brett Howden will be the key to growing those kids in an NHL environment that still has a veteran presence for guidance.

LONG-TERM NEEDS: The talent is there on paper, so what the Rangers need in the next few years is a transition from one generation to the next. Henrik Lundqvist will soon cede the crease to Ilya Shesterkin, K’Andre Miller will take on blueline minutes from Kevin Shattenkirk and so on, but that handover needs to be gradual and supported by the vets.

CAP SITUATION: GM Jeff Gorton has $20 million in cap space, though he doesn’t have big decisions to make. The team has no major UFAs and a host of RFAs who should not be contentious. Pavel Buchnevich and Brendan Lemieux are in the latter group. The trickiest signing will be that of defenseman Jacob Trouba, acquired in mid-June from the Winnipeg Jets.

IN THE SYSTEM 2019-20: Expect a lot of youngsters to get looks with the Rangers, led by the fiercely competitive Andersson, who split this season between New York and AHL Hartford. On the back end, Libor Hajek is a name to keep in mind. He came over from Tampa Bay in the Ryan McDonagh trade and saw his first NHL action this year before getting injured in March.

DID YOU KNOW: Defenseman Nico Gross can become only the 11th player ever to suit up in four WJCs if he plays for Switzerland again next year in the Czech Republic.

LATE-ROUND GEMS:
(2000-2018 drafts)
Henrik Lundqvist, 205th, ’00
Marek Zidlicky, 176th, ’01
Ryan Callahan, 127th, ’04
Carl Hagelin, 168th, ’07
Dominic Moore, 95th, ’00
Dale Weise, 111th, ’08
Tom Pyatt, 107th, ’05
Anthony Duclair, 80th, ’13
Jesper Fast, 157th, ’10
Pavel Buchnevich, 75th, ’13

PICKS AFTER SECOND ROUND: 110
100+ NHL GAMES: 17
PERCENT SUCCESS: 15.6%
NHL RANK: 6th

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